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on March 30, 2010
There is a stack of bird books sitting near the window in my living room from which I watch a bird feeder and its visitors every day. I have an ancient 2nd edition of Peterson that really started me watching birds. So, I admit that I have a sentimental attachment to my Peterson Guides. I have hauled Peterson Guides over 4 continents. The National Geographic Guide is a back up for me, when I am trying to compare characteristics of the birds I see. Sibley I keep for comparison and because I love books-and as a general U.S. Guide. But, day-to-day, year-to year, I still carry my Peterson in a knapsack with my maps and snacks and use it as my comfortably dog-eared companion.

I also love this new addition. Although it is a bit larger, it is still smaller that my Sibley guide. It also has some of the improvements that made the Sibley guides popular, such as maps on the same page as the bird illustrations. (Another reviewer has complained the maps are not accurate, but I must admit that I only use the maps as a very general reference. The bird migration and shifting populations seem to make the presence of many birds "outside the map" a real possibility where I live).

The larger illustrations are a real improvement (much appreciated as my eyes age). The biggest difference for me, after years of birdwatching, is that the Peterson Guide is only one of the sources I consult. Now I carry a field guide but am more likely to take field notes and sketches home to look at more than one source. Perhaps because I studied art when I was young, I prefer the less constrained illustrations by Peterson vs. Sibley. All in all, the Peterson Guide is still the one I will carry with me in the field as the quick reference. I have often heard that Peterson is not for "serious' birders. Well, it has served this amateur well for several decades. The new addition is a delight. It is not prefect, there is no perfect; but if I were to recommend one guide to western birds, this would be the one.
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on March 22, 2010
I love this book. This isn't a book set up for ornithologists. This is a book designed with the non-bird expert in mind. Not that it's dumbed down in any way, far from it, but it makes finding and identifying species easy based on where you saw a bird and what it looks like.

For the expert birder, there's plenty to love here, too. The index takes you directly to specific birds. The pictures show multiple pictures when birds look differently as immature or breeding. The maps are very useful in helping narrow the exact species. And having this book cover only Western birds means that you'll likely spend less time searching for a particular bird.

Although I read the digital galley and wasn't able to take the guide into the field, I was able to go back home and correctly answer this question: Hey Mom! What's that bird called? The bonus podcasts are very helpful.

I highly recommend this new edition for both dedicated or aspiring bird watchers and for parents who want to provide some more in depth and accurate information about birds found in their area.
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on July 26, 2010
This is a copy of a review I wrote for the eastern edition, but I think it fits them both.

I really wish I could agree with the glowing reviews given by others, but I can't, at least in some respects. I grew up with the original Peterson field guide, and it was my parents' bible. The revisions over the years greatly enhanced the original material. I doubt there is a "seasoned" birder out there who would not say that the Peterson guides are responsible to a great extent for their love of birding.
As soon as They were available I signed up for the pre-order of both the eastern and western editions. I have had them now for around 5 months, and they have never left the house. I can only really comment on the eastern edition, because I never had a previous western ed., but I assume this applies to both.
The book's content is at least 95% the same as the previous edition. I have spotted an added picture or two, but not many. Colors have been changed slightly, but I am not sure that they are better, and it may just be the printing process. The text is updated to agree with current information, bird names, etc., but I haven't noticed much else. In that the pictures and information in the guides has always been excellent, all well and good.
The complaint I have is that the book is just no longer a FIELD GUIDE to me, as past editions were. It is thicker, somewhat heavier, and for a very poor reason, in my estimation. The difference is primarily in the back section of range maps, which has almost doubled in size. It takes up roughly 1/4 of the total size of the book. Now, we all refer to a range map from time to time, but I would bet its something like 1 in 300 times we use the book. Beyond that, the regular pages have smaller maps for the birds which suffice very well at least 95% of the time. To waste all that space and weight is ridiculous. If it is necessary to include all those large maps, I suggest they should be published separately and packaged with the guides, letting the user decide whether or not to carry them. I'm betting not 1/10 of 1% would. The old guide slid nicely into a pocket of my field pants. I won't be doing that with the new one, I'd be afraid it would rip the pocket out, if I could get it in at all. The newest National Geo. guides are top notch, and they are smaller, thinner, and lighter than Peterson, as are others. The "big Sibley" has become the bible for most birders, although mine will never leave the house or car because of size, so that leaves out the new Peterson from any primary use other than possibly the "bird feeder birder". My feeling is, the people at Peterson "just don't get it" as far as their niche in the guide book business goes. I feel guilty for being a detractor of this "new standard", but I would feel more guilty if I did not.
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on September 8, 2011
I'll admit that I love the Peterson guides over any other version, partly because my first introductions to birding were through Peterson related materials (Birding by Ear and the previous edition of Peteron's Eastern and Western field guides.) I like the pictures, the descriptions, the maps and the layout better than Sibley, NatGeo, or Kaufmann. The mnemonics for vocalizations are certainly easier to use than the sonograms in the Golden Books version and more familiar to me than descriptions in other birding series.

I recently bought this new edition of the Western Peterson guide and it is a significant improvement over the previous version, which I disliked very much. Maps accompany the bird's pictures rather than the maps just at the rear of the book. I don't get to go birding out west very often but when I do, I need the maps and flipping to the back was always inconvenient. The maps in the old edition were also not in the same order as the birds in the pictures, differing from the easy to follow sequential arrangement of my now crumbling (from use) Eastern guide.

But I agree with the comments several reviewers have already made. This book outgrew the label of field guide. This book is too big to fit the pocket of either my cargo pants or my fanny pack. When I do go west, it's usually on business and space is limited in my bag. This book will displace something else. Two copies of each map don't make sense to me. I like the suggestion that there be two parts, a field guide and an accompanying map book. That would be a good idea for the next edition of both books or perhaps just put those big maps in the combined version.
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on August 9, 2010
Sure there is lots more competition from other bird books now; but for ID of birds Peterson is still the best! The use of "points of emphasis" drawings to distinguish what makes a species different is still the best technique and biggest help - even for experienced birders (and I fit this category knowing warblers by their song). Do not go with books that use photographs whatever you do - birds just do not look like the photo in real life; as there is significant variation by bird. But a few characteristics are prominent on all birds of the same species - thus, Peterson drawings emphasizing these prominent points are the most helpful approach. Also, do not try to make a reference book with more info into a "field guide" for ID - too much info is bulky and confusing and harder to reference "in the field". RTP is still King and his legacy lives on...
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on September 12, 2011
Although there are now many field guides available to aspiring birders and more casual bird lovers, the Peterson Guides still firmly occupy the top of the heap. Their lucid descriptions, refined over generations, combined with RTP's simple and revealing paintings, make them the go-to source for this old birder and his granddaughter's contemporaries alike. A must for any bird lover's bookshelf.
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on July 2, 2014
I have several previous editions, but this one is the best ever! Many updates to bird ranges and access to podcasts and other media are nice enhancements.. I like the larger format and the pages and cover are weather resistant materials. Whether you spend a lot of time in the field or just like to identify birds out in your backyard, this reference won't dissapoint.
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on May 18, 2014
The paintings are terrific in this book, with the various birds set together for easy comparison. Lots of detailed information, easy to read, easy to use. Our kids (5 and 7) love it, since they can see who's at the bird feeder. With a colorized seasonal map next to each bird, you can also check what you are seeing against the time of year.

The book is organized by types of birds (ducks, chicken like birds, loons, tube noses, ...) but if you skim the book once first, you'll probably be good enough to get to the right section of the book, and narrow down from there.
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on May 11, 2011
I teach high school biology and have long had a set of Sibleys for my students. Because the art is better (compare the swallows!), I would like to switch back to Peterson except that the Peterson has grown pretty much out of my jacket pockets. I see no reason for two sets of maps. The small ones opposite the plates suffice and there are a hundred extra pages of larger maps at the back of the book. Eliminate the big maps and the book will be perfect. My loyalty to the Peterson is deep however so I may buy a new classroom set anyway.
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on January 29, 2015
I bought this book as an update to my 1961 Second Edition copy. This is a much more extensive book and a great resource for identification purposes. The drawings are gorgeous, the keys are clear, and the maps are helpful. It is a bit weak on habitat, particularly food and nesting material and location requirements.
It's too much to lug around while working, and too little as a basis for habitat management. What needs to happen with this book is that it becomes a phone app with structured queries narrowed by location and then access to pages for each species. I'm sure this will happen eventually, but it's an open question as to who will get there first.
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